NAMAD looks to the next generation

As baby boomers head for retirement, many dealer groups and associations have created networking forums and workshops for the children who are the heirs apparent of their family businesses.

Count the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers among those doing so.

At its annual conference in Miami Beach, Fla., this month, NAMAD held a first-ever special workshop for about 30 or so "Next Generation Dealers."

They were mostly in their 20s and 30s, used their smartphones more for texting than talking and identified themselves as sons, daughters and other relatives of dealers and managers who attended the conference.

They don't all currently work at their family stores. Among the attendees were a young woman who works at a CarMax dealership and a young man enrolled in Morehouse College, an all-male, historically black college in Atlanta.

Making good on the adage that you don't know where you're going unless you know where you've been, former dealers Nate Conyers of Detroit and Bill Shack of Yucca Valley, Calif., talked to the group about the founding of NAMAD in the 1970s. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson was there, too.

"No one is giving you anything. This is not a charitable situation," Shack warned. Conyers said: "You have to be committed in this arena not to get rich but to do better."

But it was facilitator Steven Jones, CEO of Jones & Associates Consulting Inc., who challenged the young managers, dealers-in-training and college students in a way that prompted them to share their experiences.

There were humorous accounts about being fired by fathers and fathers-in-law and scenarios of being sent to work at nonfamily dealerships to learn the business. Some expressed heartfelt appreciation for their parents' hard work and made it clear that they share the passion for the business.

For example, Ryan Fitzpatrick, 36, the general manager of Valley Lexus in Modesto, Calif., spoke about how important it is that he and his peers bridge gaps between the family business, technology and Generation X and Y consumers.

"The manufacturers -- that's their big push," said Fitzpatrick, son of dealer Ed Fitzpatrick. "They're all trying to figure out how to market to Generation X and Y. Who better to understand that than people who are Generation X and Y?

"We can help our parents and the dealers we're working for by helping them understand the technology. If you don't embrace it, you're going to lose out."

The two-hour session was upbeat, fast-paced and generated a lot of discussion.

It also shed light on some of the people who will mind the dealerships in the future.

You can reach Arlena Sawyers at

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